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What the Hell Is Ashwagandha and Why Are Men Swearing By Its Health Benefits?

Could Ashwagandha Boost Your Muscle Mass, Memory, and More?

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If you’re anything like most people, your medicine cabinet has slowly evolved from a collection of skin and hair care products into something resembling a witch’s potion cupboard, filled with trendy (and hard-to-pronounce) herbs, vitamins, roots, enzymes, and minerals, all offering the hope of improved wellness. Nutritional supplements like elderberry and echinacea have long been the rage in a multi-billion dollar industry that touts immunity-boosting, metabolism-enhancing, and anxiety-reducing health benefits, but every year, a different ingredient, promising something amazing, takes the spotlight. And 2021 is, unsurprisingly, no different. 

RELATED: Most Anticipated Fitness and Health Trends for 2021

Enter ashwagandha: the latest “it” product to burst onto the scene, popular especially among men thanks to its bold claims to not only combat anxiety, but also increase testosterone levels and improve semen quality. 

To break down the miracle that is the ashwagandha plant and its impact on nutrition and your overall well-being, we chatted with Jackie Topol, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who works with clients virtually across the country. Topol has integrated ashwagandha into some of her patients’ diets and all for good reason. Here’s why.


What Is Ashwagandha?


Roots and powder of Ashwagandha also known as Indian ginseng on wooden background, top viewGettyImages

Withania somnifera, marketed with the much-sexier name of “ashwagandha,” is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and Africa. In the health world, it is classified as an “adaptogen,” meaning its primary purpose is to reduce stress levels and anxiety. Through studies, these “herbal medicines” have also proven to be “neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, and antidepressive,” making it a great all-natural supplement to support overall mental health. 

Ashwagandha supplementation has been used as a form of alternative medicine for thousands of years. It is safe to consume, though anyone should “speak with a dietitian or doctor to discuss the right dosage” prior to incorporating it into your daily routine, advises Topol. 


General Benefits of Ashwagandha


  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety 

“People are turning towards more holistic remedies to manage stress and anxiety,” says Topol. “Studies suggest that ashwagandha may help reduce stress and may also reduce stress-related weight gain through decreasing cortisol levels.” This win-win has made it an ideal alternative to prescription antidepressants and benzodiazepines, which aim to either balance emotions or calm your brain. In fact, results are so promising that its sales make it the third most popular herbal supplement in the country, only after CBD and elderberry. 

  • Potentially Decrease Tumors

When evaluated as a chemopreventive agent with anti-tumorigenic properties, ashwagandha shows somewhat promising signs; though this study is the first to divulge that more research is needed before making such swift assumptions, especially since most positive outcomes came from lab rats as test subjects. 

If you’re looking to fine-tune your motor skills without crossword puzzles and eating salmon, some studies are proving that ashwagandha may provide a bump in cognitive performance. “For focus, concentration, and memory, ashwagandha has been shown in many studies to enhance all aspects of cognitive function,” reveals Robin DiPasquale, ND, in her Natural Medicine Journal study.   

While many studies are still in exploratory stages, there’s hope that ashwagandha may be able to lower blood sugar levels. This was particularly relevant when the extract was derived from the ashwagandha root and not the leaf, due to its high flavonoid content. Flavonoids, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are naturally-occurring phenolic compounds that help to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the chance of developing diabetes. 


RELATED: Best Fertility Vitamins and Supplements for Men


Ashwagandha Benefits for Men


  • Increase Testosterone and Sperm Quality

“Small studies have found that ashwagandha can increase testosterone levels and improve sperm count, volume, and motility,” says Topol. For men looking to start a family, this could have positive implications when it comes to fertility and conception. For men who are more concerned about the sex and less concerned about fatherhood, it may boost libido and assist in treating erectile dysfunction. 

  • Increase Muscle Mass and Lower Body Fat

Looking for #gainz in the gym? You may actually be in luck. Ashwagandha has also shown to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat percentages, and even lower cholesterol, making it one of the go-to supplements for athletes, especially bodybuilders. 


Best Ashwagandha Products


While you should always consult a medical professional before integrating any new product or supplement into your diet, these high-quality Amazon products boast both positive reviews and positive results, making them some of our personal favorites. 

KOS Organic Ashwagandha Powder

KOS Organic Ashwagandha Powder

For those who want ashwagandha in its purest root form, opt for powder, which can easily be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and protein shakes. KOS is a proven industry leader and, in partnership with Feeding America, will donate one meal to someone in need with every purchase. Now that’s an investment you can feel even more good about. 

Promising review: “I cannot express my love for this product enough. I take it every single morning and sometimes at night and have felt a significant decrease in anxiety and stress. I’m able to maintain control of my emotions throughout the day and handle situations with ease. The carton comes with so much powder and a little scooper and it LASTS. I don’t think I can live without this product at this point.” — Kyle V. 

$22.99 at Amazon.com

Stressballs De-Stress + Relax Gummies

Stressballs De-Stress + Relax Gummies

A gummy vitamin or dietary supplement is not only beneficial for your health, but delicious. The addition of ginseng and lemon balm makes these a winning combo in lowering stress over time. Pop a couple in your mouth throughout the day, as needed, and take a few deep inhales and exhales. You should feel at least a bit more relaxed and ready to tackle whatever is on your busy agenda. 

Promising review: “I have SEVERE anxiety disorder, so I’ll try anything to make it better. It’s not a miracle cure, but it really does help! My insomnia has always improved. I don’t think the taste is anywhere near as bad as other reviewers make it out to be. I love this product and I plan to make it a staple in my medicine cabinet!” — Nathaniel M. 

$13.48 at Amazon.com

Agobi Organic Ashwagandha Capsules

Agobi Organic Ashwagandha Capsules

You may not want another dietary supplement to add to your medicine cabinet, but at 5200mg, this ashwagandha supplement  packs a punch and only requires one serving a day. As with any new supplement, remember to always ask your doctor about proper dosages. Too much or too little may ultimately prove to be ineffective, though the presence of ginger and black pepper in this iteration of an ashwagandha supplement should assist with absorption.

Promising review: “I borrowed a few capsules from a friend of mine and started taking them. I was just amazed at the change in my energy [and] my mood. I felt so much better and this is a time of year that is usually very hard for me. Going into fall, my mood is low and I’m just not as happy. This has changed my life. Therefore, I now have my own bottle and will continue to take the product. I hope it also helps you.” — Delia F.

$17.99 on Amazon.com

Organic India Calming Tulsi Herbal Ashwagandha Tea

Organic India Calming Tulsi Herbal Ashwagandha Tea

Caffeine-free, this ashwagandha tea is the optimal beverage to sip on when you want to settle your body and mind before catching some Zzzs. Thanks to its blend, including organic Tulsi (holy basil) this tea has a nicely balanced flavor, mild a little earthy and a touch of citrus.

Promising review: “This tea not only tastes good, it helps me sleep at night. I wish I’d known about this product a lot sooner.” – Kalikara

$6.79 at Amazon.com

HERBAMAMA Ashwagandha Root Extract

HERBAMAMA Ashwagandha Liquid Extract

Alcohol-free and an excellent sleep aid, there is something to be said about this potent ashwagandha extract that only requires a few drops on the tongue before bed. In fact, many customers have been swapping the ever-so-reliable CBD and melatonin for the “nutty, sweet” stuff to ensure more restful nights.  

Promising review: “Love this product! I have an under-active thyroid which results in low energy, anxiety, and have had a hard time sleeping at night. I started to use this with nettle tea at night and it gave me the best night sleep and woke up feeling rested. Ordered my second bottle!” — Min

$14.35 at Amazon.com 

Four Sigmatic Coffee with Ashwagandha

Four Sigmatic Coffee with Ashwagandha

A cup of Joe that calms you instead of causing jitters? It’s here and it’s delicious. This Fair-trade Colombian coffee blend from Four Sigmatic includes 300 mg of organic ashwagandha which helps your body balance and adapt to stress. It can be prepared via French press, pour over, or drip.

Promising review: “With constant stress and a history of adrenal fatigue, I purchased this product to meet my desire for good coffee. I’m not sure how the “magic” works but the adaptogens and caffeine worked so I was not having . coffee “crash”. Pricey but noticeable effects.” – Susan

$18.99 at Amazon.com


RELATED: How to Boost Your Immune System


What Are Ashwaghanda’s Side Effects?


It’s important to only purchase ashwagandha root extract, ashwagandha tablets, or any other product you come across from trusted distributors and determine a dosage that’s right for you. Side effects can include “nausea, headache, drowsiness, stomach ache, and diarrhea or loose bowel movements,” warns Topol, though it is generally considered safe.  


Ashwagandha Alternatives


Still not convinced? If for whatever reason you’re not on board with consuming ashwagandha extract, ashwagandha powder, or an ashwagandha capsule, Topol is a huge fan of magnesium, which can also help in managing stress levels. Luckily for you, there are several foods that are jam-packed with the magnesium and it happens to be vital for maintaining normal blood pressure, fortifying bone strength, and keeping your heart rate steady . These include dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, and tofu.


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